Eric Wright gears up for £45m Animate start in Preston

An early 2023 start-on-site is set for the leisure complex, which will see the city council and partner Maple Grove Developments deliver a cinema, bowling alley, and street food hub.

Main contractor Eric Wright Construction will be prepping for work to start on the site, situated at Earl Street and Tenterfield Street, next month, with a view for construction to begin early next year. The scheme has an estimated completion date of winter 2024.

Set on the site of the former Preston indoor market, Animate will offer 168,000 sq ft of hospitality and leisure space.

Hollywood Bowl has signed on for the 20,300 sq ft, 16-lane bowling alley. Arc Cinema has taken 29,500 sq ft for an eight-screen venue.

Animate will also hold five restaurants and bars, a street food hub, and a 164-space underground car park.

The project would also see the public realm of the area around Earl Street and Tenterfield Street improved, with alfresco dining-appropriate spaces and enhanced links to the nearby bus station.

Planning permission for the Leach Rhodes Walker-designed Animate was granted in March.

The £45m scheme is funded by the city council, with part of the money coming from Towns Fund and City Deal awards. Upon completion, it will be publicly owned.

Leader of Preston City Council Cllr Matthew Brown said: “Animate is being funded and retained by the Council as a strategic public asset and we are confident in the benefits that this development will bring.

“The decision is underpinned by our commitment to the Preston Model – our Community Wealth Building strategy – which is to create and support long-term local jobs, training and investment, and to help bring about positive changes in the standard of living for our residents by ensuring more of our local economy is democratically and socially owned.”

Animate is one part of the council’s £200m Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme. John Chesworth, chair of the Preston Towns Fund Board, described Animate as a “cornerstone project” for that effort.

Chesworth said: “One of the key priorities of Preston’s 15-year Investment Plan is to transform the city’s cultural infrastructure, focussing on our cultural and leisure facilities, public spaces and programmes…

“A vibrant cultural life in Preston will be a key driver of economic prosperity for the city and it is hoped that Animate, along with Harris Your Place, will be the first of many large-scale investments to enhance the leisure and cultural offering in Preston.”